Monastic: June 2007 Archives

Guercino did this drawing of the martyrdom of Saints John and Paul in 1630-32. He used a pen and brown ink, a brush and brown wash. The decapitated body of one of the martyrs lies prostrate, while the other, kneeling, awaits his death. The executioner is seen from behind; his face is hidden from the viewer.


Friends and Martyrs of the Church at Rome

Today is the memorial of Saints John and Paul, named both in the Martyrology and in the Roman Canon. John and Paul were Roman soldiers in the service of Constantia, the daughter of Constantine. They chose the friendship of Jesus Christ over the favour of Julian the Apostate. The liturgy draws on the imagery of the Apocalypse to describe them as “two olive trees and two candlesticks shining before the Lord” (Ap 11:4). The texts of their Proper Mass speak of the bonds of friendship and true fraternity.

The Church and Monastery of Saints John and Paul are on the Coelian Hill, a mere twenty minute walk from Santa Croce in Gerusalemme. One can also visit there the cell of Saint Paul of the Cross, founder of the Passionists.

The Mass and Office of Saints John and Paul left their mark on the soul of Suzanne Wrotnowska (Mother Marie des Douleurs), foundress of the Benedictines of Jesus Crucified, and, over the years, provided her, again and again, with food for meditation and exhortation.

Safely Through a Hundred Trials

The Introit of the today’s Mass spoke to her heart; in some ways it was strikingly prophetic of things to come: “Multae tribulationes . . . Though a hundred trials beset the righteous, the Lord will bring them safely through them all. Under the Lord’s keeping every bone of theirs is safe, not one of them shall suffer harm” (Ps 33:30-21). Suzanne’s writings, even at this time, reveal her capacity to attend to the texts of the Mass and Divine Office, and to draw out of them light for the conversion of her life, fortitude, and joy.

True Brotherhood

Writing on the feast of Saints John and Paul in 1932, Mother Marie des Douleurs offered her daughters a teaching from the Alleluia verse of the Mass: “This is true brotherhood, that triumphed over the reproaches of earth and followed Christ, laying hold of the glories of a heavenly kingdom.” The youthful foundress, writing after a little more than six months of life in community, was demanding, uncompromising, and realistic:

The holy martyrs John and Paul found in their common martyrdom a brotherhood deeper than that of blood.
For us, without having been called to the honour of martyrdom, we will find true brotherhood not in natural affection, nor in a community of tastes, occupations, and life, but in the total immolation of ourselves.
Here, in the perfect unity of the divine Heart, is where we will find one another: in the complete sacrifice that we promise, translated into a continual, smiling, and courageous abnegation.
This brotherhood of ours is very sweet, very intimate, very true if it is above ourselves. Otherwise, not only will it be disappointing and mediocre, it will not be able to last. We will love one another to the extent that we are sacrificed, insofar as we will have shared in the dispositions of the divine Victim.


The June 20th daily edition of L'Osservatore Romano contained an article on the ordination of two Olivetan Benedictine Monks of the Abbey of Santa Maria del Pilastrello in Lendinara. The title caught my attention immediately: Chiamati a riflettere il Volto di Cristo e la sua misericordia come figli di San Benedetto Called to reflect the Face of Christ and His Mercy as Sons of Saint Benedict.

Addressing Dom Nicola Bellinazzo and Dom Gabriele Ferrarese, the two monks to be ordained, one to the priesthood and the other to the diaconate, His Excellency, Mons. Lucio Soravito de Franceschi, bishop of Adrio-Rovigo, said:

Remaining Monks

You must never forget that, first of all, you are and you remain monks. The Council, in the decree on religious life, Perfectae Caritatis, affirms that "the principal duty of monks is the humble and noble service of the Divine Majesty within the walls of the monastery, either by dedicating themselves entirely to divine worship in a hidden life, or by taking on some legitimate work of the apostolate or of Christian charity."

About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

Donations for Silverstream Priory